Prompted by her Nobel Prize my local library has a small display of Doris Lessing’s books. This slim volume seemed like a good place to start and a good choice for a lunchtime book.
Having never read any of her work before the thing that starts to strike you in the two short stories the Black Madonna and the Trinket Box is the ability Lessing has to unravel a human being with just a few words.
In the Black Madonna an Italian prisoner of war manages to befriend a captain and unlock his tongue with brandy but also the power of art. The Black Madonna in question both scares and attracts the captain who is envious in a way of the Italian’s simple view of love and the world. That is maybe the advantage he has being the captured man. He shows friendship for the captain but when spurned knows how to wound him deeply with just a couple of words.
The Trinket Box is also about the mystery of someone. In this case an aged Aunt Maud who dies slowly but manages to leave everyone with no idea of how she felt and what she thought other than just how well she was able to read their own minds and desires.
As a taster it already, just 30 pages read, give a clear indication of Lessing’s ability to pierce the soul and commit it to paper.